No more slogging out to Wapping in the rain. No more banal morning news
conferences. Ah, joy.
I lasted a lot longer at The Times than most of the people who run
Britain’s companies. Your typical chief executive is lucky to survive five years
in the job.
A survey by Cantos, the business media company, put the average at 4.6 years,
which is not long in that kind of role. In an operation the size of Unilever or
BP, it would take a couple of years just to get to grips with the issues. On a
five-year stint, you’d just be getting started.
Mind you, a voluminous golden parachute would doubtless ease any frustrations
about a job left half-done.
There are still a few veterans around. Sir Martin Sorrell has been chief
executive of WPP since 1986 and shows no sign of loosening his grip on the
company. In truth, it is hard to imagine him working anywhere else.
After narrowly escaping ruin in the recession of the early 1990s (remember
those massive rights issues to pay for JWT and Ogilvy & Mather?) Sorrell is
entitled to share in the company’s ongoing success. He’s earnt it.
Sir Ken Morrison is the UK’s longest-serving chairman, with nearly 38 years,
and John Ritblat of British Land has clocked up 34 years as chairman.
How do you reward loyalty on that scale? News International has a scheme
under which employees who last 35 years (a gruesome thought) are eligible for a
holiday worth £1,000. Allowing for inflation, that might just cover a night in
I didn’t think it was worth waiting around for.
Jon Ashworth is a freelance journalist and writer
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